Re: Ed's occasional clipping service: The Vote:California Secretary of State Debra Bowen Releases DraftCritera for Voting Machine Review

From: Edward Cherlin <echerlin_at_gmail_dot_com>
Date: Thu Mar 29 2007 - 23:32:09 CDT

What about auditing? Starting with auditability, which inherently
requires two data paths (as in double-entry bookkeeping). One paper
and one electronic, with cross-links, meets that minimum. Then there
is the frequency of audits. How public are the audits? Are the
auditors independent of the manufacturers and the incumbents? Can the
public check the results?

We need independent testing, not funded (inadequately) by the vendors.
We need public (by anyone, not just officials and hired contractors)
access to the code and the machines.

A great many people have committed a great many election crimes in
recent years, but I have yet to hear of somebody going to jail or
being fined for any of these offenses. Without enforcement, law is

On 3/27/07, Alan Dechert <> wrote:
> I decided to write something in response to her request for comments (by Mar
> 30). This is a little cranky and not done. It's late and I'm tired of
> typing. Please help.

How about an RFQ for a completely new system, where it is a contract
requirement to publish the code? And you can specify security and
auditability to some public standard level, maybe from DoD. (Emissions
prevention is unfortunately covered by the classified Tempest

> <<<<<<<
> We all agree that a top-to-bottom review of the voting system is an
> appropriate exercise for a new Secretary of State, especially for one that
> campaigned on the inadequacies and failures of the current system. We are
> concerned that your proposed review focuses too narrowly on the equipment.
> We want a better, more transparent, voting system. We want public oversight

i.e., by the public themselves, not just by officials.

> of all aspects of election administration. We are interested in seeing your
> plan to improve the voting system and bring sunlight to shine on the whole
> apparatus.
> It seems the only remedy you are proposing is to decertify existing systems.
> For those that do not meet acceptable levels, the review
> will help determine whether certification should be withdrawn
> unconditionally, or withdrawn subject to re-certification with
> additional conditions on use for elections in 2007 and 2008.
> Pursuant to Elections Code Section 19222, any decertification
> decision would only be effective for elections held more than six
> months later. Accordingly, a decertification decision made on
> or before August 3, 2007, would be effective for the
> February 5, 2008, presidential primary election. [1]
> Several times you repeat the ominous sounding phrase, "the Secretary of
> State may immediately initiate the process to withdraw certification from
> the voting system." Is this realistic?

The magic word here is "initiate". Just as a DA can decide to
prosecute a crime at any time, but the courts have a lot to say about
how far and fast the case will go.

> Your own testimony [2] before Congress last week seems to negate this from
> the outset:
> Second, I'm concerned from a financial, logistical, and voter
> acceptance standpoint, about requiring certain changes by
> 2008 that may be made obsolete by other changes that could
> be required by 2010. I don't think any of us want to require
> counties and states to buy a system that may only be used for
> one election cycle.
> Real testing of computerized systems is expensive. Software of moderate
> complexity can cost millions of dollars to test. Bugs still get through.

Without public code review, the process is hopeless.

> Complex software can cost vastly more to adequately test. Boeing spent
> roughly one billion dollars on testing the software for the B777 [3].
> Wouldn't the foundation of democracy -- our voting system -- deserve a level
> of scrutiny equal to a single airplane?

It would actually make sense to require the use of an avionics-grade
operating system, such as LynuxWorks's Linux-178B. (I worked for them
some years ago.)

> On this page, I counted 70 products from ES&S, Diebold, Hart InterCivic, and
> Sequoia that have been certified since 1/1/05.

What would be the effort to get our software running on a reasonable
number of them?

> There are more products listed that were certified before that but it's not
> clear if any of them are still in use. That's a lot of products to "test."
> Question one: How much have you budgeted for this "review?"
> How many test engineers does your office employ? Who will write the test
> specification, test plan, and test cases for each of these products? Will
> you publish the test specification, test plan, and detailed test cases you
> develop for all of these products? Who will execute the test cases? How
> about the results from all the test cases?
> It's easy to do some selective probing and find some bugs -- especially
> where there is evidence of some problems. But real testing of computerized
> systems is another matter. The test labs authorized to certify voting
> systems don't do much in the way of testing. There isn't enough money for
> it. A more appropriate term for what they do might be "compliance
> checking."
> Do you have human subjects lined up for "Disability Access Testing?" This
> may be one of the more fruitful areas to probe. You will find many
> problems. But will you find anything new? A lot of informal testing has
> already been done in this area. You might start with Noel Runyan's recent
> paper [4].
> The problem with your review as outlined is that you are not giving us
> anything new. The criteria you use are existing criteria. All of these
> systems have already undergone "federal" and state review based on the same
> criteria. We recommend that you wrap up the review sooner rather than
> later. You mention an August target, but we recommend June at the latest.
> That way, you can more time to look at state legislation that will still be
> in the works then. And you can start focusing on solutions.
> It may be that the main function of the review is self-education for you and
> your staff. That's okay, but we want you to figure out where we are and
> move ahead without delay.
> Your testing will necessarily be selective and, therefore, unfair. You will
> find many problems where you probe, but for everything else, you just won't
> have the resources to do much. We don't want you to get too engrossed in
> testing because that is a potential black hole. We already know a great
> deal about the problems. We want you to work on ways to replace existing
> systems with better ones that are open to public scrutiny -- nonproprietary.
> Before you generate a lot of new data, spend time gathering existing data
> and review that. Develop questionnaires targeting people, in all 58
> counties, who already have much of the information you seek. Consider how
> the technology is working for them, and also consider administrative factors
> involved.
> The biggest challenge in voting technology has to do with access for people
> with disabilities. We want you to focus on that right away. We always hear
> that people with disabilities need a way to vote privately and unassisted.
> In the real world, how realistic is this?
> Consider this from Noel Runyan's excellent paper:
> Studies have shown that 20% of the population of the U.S.
> has one or more disabilities and that approximately 10%
> of that number live with severe disabilities and that about
> 20% of U.S. adults with disabilities - more than 8 million
> potential voters - say they have been unable to vote in
> presidential or congressional elections due to barriers at
> or getting to the polls.
> Then consider actual usage of accessible voting machines at the polls. Some
> evidence suggests that the accessible machines are used by less than 1/10th
> of one percent of the voting population -- often one ballot or less cast at
> a poll site. "Nobody uses them," is a common comment from people working
> the polls. If we calculate the cost per ballot cast on these machines, it
> sometimes works out into the thousands of dollars each. It may not be the
> most popular topic, but it's time to look at this issue.
> I've heard from registrars that say they know the voters with disabilities
> in their county, and those voters won't use a machine no matter what. They
> want assistance voting and are used to getting it. Some people vote with
> assistance from friends or family. Some people vote with assistance from
> election officials.
> Voters with disabilities have won the right to have an accessible voting
> machine at every poll site, and we support that. However, we need a better
> definition of the community we need to accommodate. The barrier to the poll
> booth needs to be as low as we can make it, while being consistent and well
> defined.
> - Who is using accessible voting machines (how many and with what
> disabilities)?
> - Who could potentially use the machines but is staying home? Why?
> - How do people with disabilities feel about getting human assistance
> voting?
> - How many feel they are better served with human assistance?
> - Do people with disabilities know that election officials can assist them?
> - Are mobile services available? (election official visiting disabled
> voter)
> I believe this is mainly a federal voting rights issue, but developing some
> good data could be valuable.

How about public hearings around the state?

> R&D funding is needed for this. HAVA R&D
> money was never appropriated.
> [1]
> [2]
> [3]
> [4]
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Edmund R. Kennedy" <>
> To: "Open Voting Consortium discussion list" <>
> Sent: Monday, March 26, 2007 4:04 PM
> Subject: [OVC-discuss] Ed's occasional clipping service: The Vote:California
> Secretary of State Debra Bowen Releases DraftCritera for Voting Machine
> Review
> >
> >
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> > San Diego, CA 92126-2510
> >
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> >
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Edward Cherlin
Earth Treasury: End Poverty at a Profit
OVC-discuss mailing list
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Received on Sat Mar 31 23:17:09 2007

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